Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cull conflict

(This post has been updated)

As two small pilot badger culls get underway in Somerset and Gloucestershire, the airwaves are full with pictures of badgerists holding vigils and farmers showing off their prime cattle - still alive at the moment.

Dear old Krebs has been wheeled out again, spluttering that the pilot shooting party idea is 'insane'. And he could well be right. But how much more insane was the political tweaking of his original very well thought out project by a diminutive professor, who was sooooo proud to identify his puppeteers?

All this current discord is a predictable spin off from the mathematical models produced by Professor Bourne's RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial team. Their base 'rough assumptions' and 'estimates' projected up, up and away and grabbed eagerly by Defra's mandarins as an excuse for inaction.

Historical veterinary data was available. It was not used. Epidemiological information about this bacterium and how it performs in various situations has been known for over a century. That was ignored.
Job creation has flourished, as both badgers, cattle and now many other mammals have died - from one of the most deadly zoonoses on this planet. Tuberculosis.

 This argument or polemic should never be about badgers or cattle. It is about an international statute to protect humans from tuberculosis. And that is the point.

 The more infected badgers around, the more Defra's heap of skin tested sentinel cattle reactors has grown.

Our chart shows the various loosening up of badger controls over decades of non-strategy and the inevitable rise in cattle slaughtering.  In 1997 a moratorium was placed on Section 10 (2) (a) of the Protection of Badgers Act . And in answer to Owen Paterson's Parliamentary Questions almost a decade ago:
Under section 10 (2) (a) - to prevent the spread of disease: "It is current policy not to issue any licenses under sub section 10 (2) (a) to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis, except for animals held in captivity."
And since that moratorium on Section 10(2)a) (purchased in 1997 with Political Animal Lobby cash) we have culled no badgers 'to prevent the spread of disease' , except a very few in the RBCT, the operating protocol of which ensured not the control of Zoonotic tuberculosis, but its spread.

Defra has studiously ignored its own dead sentinels while piling more insults and restrictions on their owners.

The inevitable result is more upspill of zoonotic tuberculosis into other mammals (alpacas, sheep, pigs, and especially cats and dogs) despite valiant attempts by the AHVLA carcase counters to dumb down their own true figures. Which means more opportunities for transmission of zoonotic tuberculosis to the owners of these animals. And that's without mentioning direct contact with detritus of infected badgers, marking children's play areas or domestic gardens.

And that is the reason for culling badgers.

 For the future, to quote a timely and iconic statement, we have a dream. We would like Krebs' original prediction of PCR diagnostics to 'identify infected badger setts within 2 years' to be brought to fruition. No more mathematically modeled plots with indiscriminate population reduction overseen by a quango which has made no secret of its opposition to culling badgers for any reason at all.

And we support targeted underground culls based on the presence of disease.

Thus cattle farmers can see a badger and appreciate his stripey face, without that sinking feeling of expectation of the inevitable cattle reactors at the next TB test.

 Edit: An addition to this piece from today's Farmers Guardian online, where opposition spokesperson and MP for inner city Wakefield, the fragrant Mary Creagh, hinted at plans to abandon badger control, should her party gain power in 2015.

Allowing for a couple of 'off' periods where badgers rear more cubs than have been culled, that's about a year away. So we better get on with Plan B hadn't we?

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